Dance performances can be boring. Not so when one watches the Ballet Trockadero De Monte Carlo. The company is comprised of dancers who happen to be all men. They perform the classics. They dance in toe shoes, tutus and tiaras. While the dancing is beautifully executed, they don’t take themselves too seriously. The ballets are played with lots of humor. The Trocks are not boring.
Robert Carter is a vintage member of the cast. He has been with the company for over 20 years. I, like him, believe there are no accidents. We connected and I photographed him at the theater and with his husband in New York. He speaks openly about human rights and expresses his passion for what he believes in. As a gay Christian black man married to a white Muslim man he has experienced first hand the judgments of those that fear what they don’t understand and he remains true to himself. They have a communicative and loving partnership.
First and foremost Robert wanted me to know that he is a spiritual person. His mom was and still is his champion. She was one of 9 children from Greenwood, South Carolina. When she stood in the fields picking cotton she knew she wanted more for her children. She got her wish. Robert travels the world doing what he loves and she is there loving and supporting him all the way. I believe that without her, maybe he would have had a different outcome. As a young child, he was clearly “different”. Fortunately. the theater is a community that embraces young people that are more “colorful”. Not so much at school. He was bullied and spent much of his time alone until he went to music and dance class where he thrived.
He made it. He joined the Trocks in NYC when he was 20. He lived his dream. His mom got it, his dad not so much. It wasn’t until he saw that Robert did not live in a hovel, and was able to pay his way, did he accept that this was his career, and a good one. Validation. Real strength comes from our own self-love and approval but that primal need to seen and appreciated by our parents is pretty strong.
6 years ago Robert met Elmez. Elmaz was 35 and had been living a not so open life. He had had two arranged marriages. He came from a culture that didn’t embrace “different.” Dutifully he tried to live what was expected of him. He loved his wife and children but he was not being true to his heart. His parents were in the process of arranging a third marriage when they met. Elmez was outted. His family and children no longer wanted anything to do with him. 5 years later when he was in the hospital for a serious heart condition his mother came around, a little. His children are coming around. But here’s the gift…both Elmaz and Robert are happy. Elmaz’s health is at times fragile. There are many unresolved issues with his family but they have each other and live an authentic life. I think these photos of the two of them tell a beautiful story. I wish them lots of love and happiness together.
Robert made it clear to me that he will hang up his tights before he has danced one too many Swan Lakes. He plans on remaining a Trock, and mentoring the newbies as he has performed almost every role in the repertoire. He volunteers with Sage, the largest and oldest organization dedicated to improving the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender older adults. He also works the Ali Forney Center whose mission is to protect LGBTQ youths from the harms of homelessness and empower them with tools needed to live independently.
I’d like to thank Jill Kratish from the Parker Playhouse, the Duncan Theater, and Tori Dobrin artistic director of the Ballet Trockadero De Monte Carlo for giving me the opportunity to photograph the company and make new friends.